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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has tabled legislation that would increase transparency of government efforts to meet climate change commitments. 

Bill C-12, tabled November 19, would require the government to set and regularly report on steps taken to reach national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While this legislation could be an important tool to set Canada on course to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, more is needed to hold government to account on its emissions reduction efforts.

With 2018 emissions only cut by 0.1 percent since 2005, the government is not on track to meet its current pledge to reduce emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada, a top ten greenhouse gas emitter, has missed every emissions target the federal government set in the past 20 years. Climate accountability legislation could help break this pattern. Canadian environmental groups have already done the work of laying out how Canada could learn from similar legislation in other countries.

Unfortunately, the bill tabled this week by Minister Wilkinson does not yet reflect a full commitment to accountability. The draft bill only begins to set emissions targets starting in 2030, well after the next federal election, thereby exempting the Trudeau government from being held to account for its current performance.

With Canada warming at twice the global rate — and three times the global rate across Canada’s North — the urgent need for timely and ambitious climate action is clear. Already, Indigenous communities in Canada face significant climate change impacts that warn of worse to come. A Human Rights Watch report released last month documented the mounting toll climate change is already taking on First Nations, contributing to a growing problem of food insecurity and related negative health impacts.

Back in 2019, Justin Trudeau campaigned for re-election on the promise of climate action, committing to net zero emissions in 2050 with legislated five-year targets, saying “we can’t waste any more time.” After over a year of waiting, the Trudeau government should ensure that Bill C-12 does not simply saddle future governments with the responsibility of addressing his own government’s current lack of climate ambition. Instead, the Trudeau government should seize this opportunity for Canada to play its part in preventing the devastating impacts future generations will face if governments like Canada postpone meaningful climate action.

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